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From “Fellow to FTE”: Navigating Non-Traditional Career Paths During A Pandemic

turbinelabs December 1, 2020
Reading Time: 4 minutes

What do you want to do when you grow up? That simple question has racked everyone’s brain since childhood and continues throughout adulthood. As one goes through life, they grow and change. As they do so, there are always many looming questions in the back of their mind as they navigate life. What is my passion? What is my ultimate mission when I wake up every morning? Can I make a living from it? What degree should I obtain? Sometimes your first answer you come up with (as most in life) isn’t always correct or evergreen and Turing School of Software & Design has a non-traditional answer that is transformative for many.

Turing School of Software & Design’s 7-month program for training front-end and back-end software developers has proven outcomes in launching careers. In addition to training, Turing+ is a three-month fellowship funded by foundational money and forward-thinking companies that want to help get new graduates to work. The hope is that fellowships turn into full-time employment, but at a minimum, the new grads gain experience, networking opportunities, and something to set them apart from other junior developers during these unprecedented times.

Graduates of the Turing program have a reputation for their strong technical ability and capacity to jump into a variety of environments including new languages, frameworks, and product needs. Additionally, they bring in professional skills such as collaboration, teamwork, and thought diversity from their experience in their prior careers. While they benefit from mentorship at your company, they have learned to be self-starters and have the aptitude to work independently, seeks to provide solutions for those on a “non-traditional” path. 

Turing School of Software’s recent graduate, Caleb Haizlett has become the first Turing fellowship who has joined Turbine Lab’s team and become an official “Blade” as we affectionately refer to our employees. That alone is a huge achievement but in addition to that Caleb has accomplished all of this during a global pandemic. His skill set, optimism, and passion for the industry speak for themself, but he has blazed his own trail all during an unprecedented time in history. He’s given a candid Q&A that will describe his experience first hand from “Fellow to FTE.” 

Day to day / Experience at Turbine after Turing
We started off our Q&A session by asking Caleb to describe his own personal journey and why he decided to start the fellowship program at Turing. He began by stating that he was a part of Turing’s 1909 cohort, which ran from September 2019-April 2020. As he completed his final module of the program, COVID had already hit the U.S., making the future very uncertain for him. Luckily, Turing had started the Turing+ fellowship program to give companies the opportunity to bring on fresh talent, when the pandemic made job possibilities slim. After graduating from Turing, Caleb applied for fellowship as it seemed like a no brainer to jump at the opportunity to gain real-world experience as quickly as he could. 

When asked to describe a day in the life of a developer at Turbine Labs, Caleb started with grabbing his morning coffee and checking over his “to-do list” for the day. After this, he dives right into the tasks on his list. These tasks typically include technical work, team meetings, a break for lunch, and finishing off the day with a planning meeting or two. 

We also asked Caleb what tools he uses regularly, as well as what tools he has learned while working at Turbine Labs. He responded by first sharing the “core tech” that he works with, which includes React, TypeScript, Apollo, and GraphQL. Coming from Turing, he was already familiar with React and JavaScript but has vastly improved his knowledge of React since joining Turbine Labs. Caleb also shared that he has had many opportunities to expand his knowledge while working on smaller projects and attending learning sessions where he has been able to dabble with other tools including WordPress, Node.js, Elixir, Python, and Machine Learning. 

Real-world experience after Turing
When asked what has been his favorite real-world coding task so far, Caleb mentioned that at Turbine we have our own React component library called “Jetstream”, which is a singular component library consisting of all custom-built components used across our front end views in various products. Early on, he was tasked with building a custom slider component in Jetstream and said it was a blast being able to take a deeper look into the CSS that goes into creating something completely custom as well as thinking about making it reusable for different instances of use. 

Caleb was also asked what he’s been able to learn from the other developers at Turbine Labs, and he responded by saying the most important thing he has learned so far is that nothing is perfect. Each day we are all learning and improving upon what we already know and have worked on. Caleb mentioned that even his teammates who have been in the industry for multiple years still make mistakes, ask questions, and continue to be open to learning more and working hard each day. This is something that has really stuck with Caleb and he has come to value this in other areas of his life as well. 

Many Turing program participants take a “non-traditional” route to coding and development. We asked Caleb how his background compares to his new co-workers at Turbine Labs. He shared that several of his teammates took non-traditional approaches, such as complete career or degree changes, and got into coding by way of self-teaching or boot camp. Caleb took a more “non-traditional” route as well, attending one year of college before jumping straight into Turing. Even though they did not all take the same path to get to where they are now, Caleb stated that they all share the same positivity and willingness to work and help each other, making this team so fun to work with.

Not only has Caleb become an integral part of the Turbine Labs team, but he has also found personal fulfillment during a very difficult time in history. Our hope is that we can continue to find fellows from Turing with the same passion and drive Caleb has shown in a short amount of time and we can continue to help individuals grow from Fellow to FTE.